Monday 30 March 2009

A Week in Cologne

Visitors to this site will no doubt be aware that I have been in Cologne for the past week, helping to man our company's stand at the International Dental Show. This event, which takes place every two years, is by far the largest such show in the world and for any company involved in the dental industry attendance at IDS is pretty much essential. The company I work for is the UK's leading manufacturer of "Private Label" dental materials and although we are not quite up there with the likes of 3M and Fuji, having a stand at the show is very important to the ongoing success of our business.

Myself and three of my colleagues drove across to Cologne last Monday in order to set the stand up ready for the show's opening the next day. Although the show was open from 9am through to 6pm, there was the opportunity for a fair degree of socialising in the evenings. Whilst some of this involved attending a function with our parent company, a dinner engagement with one of our suppliers, plus a lavish "End of Show" party, we did manage to visit a reasonable number of Cologne's brew-houses and bars, and this is primarily what this article is about.

Before going any further it is worth pointing out that the style of beer most widely available in Cologne is Kolsch, which despite its pale golden colour is actually an ale and not a lager. This is because it is brewed with a top-fermenting yeast, rather than a bottom-fermenting one. It can only be brewed within Cologne itself and its immediate environs . It is served in small, tall, thin glasses that typically hold just 20cl of beer, but these are normally brought to one's table thick and fast by waiters dressed in blue aprons who are known as "Kobes" (an abbreviation of Jacob).

Our first night in Cologne saw us dining in the Sion Brauhaus, a large establishment just off the Alter Markt. Sion Kolsch tasted slightly sweet for my liking, but was pleasant enough all the same. The pub's home-made sausages with fried potatoes and creamy cabbage also slipped down well.

The next evening saw us visiting another Kolsch establishment, this time Gaffel am Dom. This huge, cavernous establishment lies close to both Cologne's famous cathedral, or Dom, and the imposing Hauptbahnhof or main station. Gaffel's brewery is also close by and I found its hoppier Kolsch rather more to my liking. The large Schnitzel I ate at the pub was also very good, but left precious little room for more beer drinking. However, two of my colleagues persuaded me that a night-cap or two would be a good idea so we headed off into the Alter Markt and ended up in a bar called "Papa Joe's". From the outside this looked the sort of place I would not normally frequent, however, once inside I was pleasantly surprised. A pianist was bashing away at an old fashioned piano, and when she had finished a mechanical wax-works dummy, played a tune on the accordion. The place was heaving and it was all very jolly. We found that as well as Kolsch, Papa Joe's had Konig Pilsener on tap. This beer is the sole offering from the huge brewery of the same name in Duisburg. It made a pleasant change from Kolsch though, and being served in 40cl glasses meant less time waiting at the bar to be served.

Wednesday evening saw us dining at a Spanish restaurant with a party from one of our main suppliers. Fish featured prominently on the menu and was both well-cooked and well-presented. I had several glasses of Veltins Pilsener to wash my meal down, much preferring this to the San Miguel which was the other beer on offer. We left the restaurant just before 10pm and said farewell to our guests. The fact that we were slightly to the west of the town centre gave me the opportunity to lead my colleagues to a superb Kolsch establishment that I had first visited over 30 years ago.

Brauerei Paffgen is a place that is well-known to beer lovers; not only is its wonderfully hoppy Kolsch brewed at the rear of the premises, but it is also dispensed from wooden casks. A former school friend had taken me to Paffgen during my first visit to Cologne, way back in 1975. My friend was working in the city as part of the language degree he was taking. I was also a student, but at the time was travelling around Europe, by train, on an Inter-Rail ticket with a friend from university. I had parted company from my travelling companion in Hamburg; he had travelled on to Stuttgart to spend a few days with his then girlfriend, whilst I had made the shorter journey to Cologne. The plan was that we would meet up later in the week in Stuttgart and continue with our journey on into southern Europe. Even back then I had a reputation for enjoying good beer so my host, knowing this fact, had taken me to Paffgen as he knew I would be impressed.

This was certainly the case; pubs that brewed their own beer in England were as rare as hens teeth back in the 70's, so Paffgen was certainly a novelty as far as I was concerned. I had always wanted to make a return visit, but never realised it would take me 34 years before the opportunity to do so would arise. This was something I was going to enjoy and was an occasion I would not have missed for the world.

It was with a sense of eager anticipation that I pushed through the door to Paffgen's legendary establishment. There was a central corridor with a small room leading off to the left, and a much larger one to the right. We opted for the latter, and were soon seated at one of the many tables in the wood-paneled room. On the way in we noticed two up-ended wooden casks, tapped and ready for serving. We ordered a Kolsch each and were pleasantly surprised by its hoppy flavour. I had a look round the rest of the pub to see if it would bring back any memories. I recognised the large back room at the end of the corridor as being the place where my friend and I had sat that damp July evening all those years ago. It was great to be back there, even if the memories were rather vague. We enjoyed several more glasses of Paffgen's Kolsch before walking back to our hotel; it had been a long-overdue return and I hope not to leave it that long again before my next visit.

The next two evenings were taken up with a corporate dinner at the Hyatt Regency, where Sion Kolsch was on tap, plus a lavish end of show party held at a massive, converted former engineering workshop called "Die Halle", on the outskirts of Cologne. Gaffel Kolsch was on tap here, and we consumed more than our fair share of it.

Having manned the stand for the five day duration of the show, we were each allocated a free afternoon. My allotted spot fell on a very wet Thursday afternoon. Despite having the corporate dinner to attend that evening, I was determined to visit a few of Cologne's Kolsch houses but without getting too"tanked up" in the process.

My first port of call was the famous Fruh am Dom, a large establishment in the shadow of the Dom. It wasn't exactly heaving inside, and I had no difficulty in locating a table. On my way in I had witnessed the beer being dispensed from a large wooden cask. On reflection, and certainly compared to the casks I had seen in both Paffgen and Pfaffen, this cask looked far too shiny and new to have been used for the transport of beer from the brewery. I suspect therefore that it was purely for show, and that the beer was fed to it via a hidden pipe. Nevertheless Fruh Kolsch was pleasantly hoppy and eminently drinkable.

I moved on as I wanted to visit a place called Pfaffen, which is the only outlet for the beer of the same name. There is a story behind this establishment in so much that it's owner, Max Paffgen fell out with some of the other members of the family and decided to start a brewery of his own. The Pfaffen kolsch was probably the best version of the style that I tasted during my stay in Cologne; in fact it was so good that I stayed for several more glasses. The long, narrow building features some attractive carved, light-coloured wood-work and also some interesting contemporary stained glass. I brought my colleagues here on the last night of our stay and they were well impressed. The beer is served direct from wooden casks, and such was the demand for this excellent kolsch that we witnessed the cask being changed twice in less than an hour, and saw the row of empties stacked up in the corridor.

So there we have it, Cologne in a nut shell. Given the fact that I was there on business, I still managed to see and sample a fair bit of the city. The Dental Show itself is a hugely important event for Cologne. This year there were over 1,700 exhibitors; some relatively small like ourselves, others massive international companies with the large entourage necessary to man their stands. There was a real buzz just walking about in the city at night, and all the bars and restaurants, as well as the local taxi companies, were doing a roaring trade. Although I had been to Cologne a couple of times before, I felt I really got to know it on this visit. It is a lively, vibrant and friendly city with some great places to eat and drink. I am already looking forward to a return there in two years time!

Saturday 21 March 2009


I was hoping to complete the posting on my recent short visit to Helsinki. Unfortunately I find I have run out of time as I am off to Cologne next week for a trade show. I expect, as a former boss of mine used to say, that my colleagues and I will be having the odd light ale, or should I say "Kolsch", but it's not all play by a long chalk, as we'll be manning the stand for five days on the trot.

Hope to report back in a week or so's time on the beer scene over there. (It's a good job I like Kolsch - just a shame they serve it in such small glasses!)

Saturday 14 March 2009

Showcase of Westerham Brewery Beers

Last night myself and fellow members of West Kent CAMRA visited the Anchor in Sevenoaks. The pub was hosting a three day mini-beer festival designed to highlight some of the excellent beers produced the local Westerham Brewery , and Friday was the opening night. Landlord, Barry Dennis had erected a stillage to one side of the bar, allowing the beers to be served by gravity. Six Westerham beers on tap; I didn't quite manage to try them all, but I was already familiar with several of them. It was good though to have the chance of tasting them side by side. I will list the beers later on, along with my comments on them, but before doing so here's a bit of background information about the Westerham Brewery.

The brewery started production in May 2004, so the company is just a month or so short of celebrating its fifth birthday. It was set up by former City trader, Robert Wicks, and Robert was on hand last night to answer any questions, and also to give a short talk about the brewery.

Robert's company is not the first to trade as the Westerham Brewery, for up until the mid-1960's there was a substantial brewery on the western fringe of this pleasant small town. Operating from the Black Eagle Brewery The official name of this concern was Bushell, Watkins & Smith (the name the result of a series of earlier mergers), but the company traded under the title of Westerham Ales. In their hey-day they were similar in size to Shepherd Neame, and had a good reputation locally.

In 1948 the company was purchased by the London brewers, Taylor Walker, of Limehouse, but brewing continued much as before. However, when Taylor Walker were bought out by Ind Coope, the writing was on the wall for Westerham, and the Black Eagle Brewery finally ceased production in 1965.

Today's Westerham Brewery has a number of things in common with its predecessor. Firstly, although it is housed in a National Trust owned farm, at Crockham Hill and not in the town itself, the water used at the brewery comes from the same aquifer source. Secondly, and most importantly, the yeast used by today's Westerham Brewery is the same, or virtually the same, as that used by the original company. This came about because the latter deposited a sample of their yeast in the National Yeast Collection at Norwich. Robert had the original yeast re-cultured; it was found to be a 3-strain variety, one of which was a wild strain. This wild strain was omitted when re-culturing took place (wild strains of yeast are NOT a good idea in a brewery). The other two strains though have allowed the present day company to closely replicate the taste of the original Westerham Ales, which brings me on to the third point. Several of today's recipes are based on those from Bushell, Watkins & Smith; the 4.9% Special Bitter Ale 1965, was based on the recipe for the last brew of Westerham Ales, back in 1965.

I have mentioned the Special Bitter Ale 1965, but the first beer I sampled on Friday was the 3.8% Black Eagle SPA. This is a well-hoped, pale ale that has always been one of my favourite Westerham Beers. I moved onto the 4.0% W.G.V - the initials standing for Whitbread Golding Variety. Up until comparatively recent times, Whitbread had their own hop farm, at Beltring near Paddock Wood. W.G.V hops were grown at the farm, which boasted the largest group of oast-houses in the world. Whitbread sold the Hop Farm over a decade ago; it now functions as a "country park" hosting such diverse events as rock concerts and the massive "War & Peace Show"; an event dedicated to those who like to re-enact World War II. Visitors can still see the famous oasts, whilst trying to avoid getting run over by tanks and other half-track vehicles, or dodging groups of Yorkshiremen dressed as Waffen SS troops!

An unusual beer followed next; William Wilberforce Freedom Ale (4.3%) is brewed from a mash that includes 20% free-trade demerrara sugar from Malawi. I am not normally in favour of brewers adding sugar to their beers, as to me it seems like cheating. However, I am prepared to make an exception in this case, as a proportion of the profits from the sale of the beer goes towards a charity that is helping to stamp out modern-day slavery. So not only do the sugar growers of Africa benefit from the sale of this beer, but the ideals of William Wilberforce in helping to abolish slavery are also being supported. The beer itself is pretty tasty, so perhaps I am being a bit too "Reinheitsgebot" in my opposition to the inclusion of sugar in beer.

The last beer I sampled was well worth waiting for, and sensibly worth leaving until last. Audit Ale at 6.4% abv, is a recreation of an old style of beer that was originally brewed for the time of year when tenants would gather to pay their yearly rents to the local landowner. A feast would be laid on, no doubt to help ease the pain of parting with such large sums of cash, and Audit Ales would be a feature of such occasions. Westerham's version was brewed nine months ago and is based on an old Westerham recipe, last used in 1934. Branch members had previously sampled this beer at the SIBA Beer Festival, held at the former Whitbread Hop Farm last August. From memory, that version was sweet, but not cloyingly so. The same beer, after six months extra maturation, was much drier and, if anything, packed even more of a punch! It was the perfect beer to finish on.

Myself and other West Kent CAMRA branch members would like to record our thanks to both Robert Wicks of Westerham, and to landlord Barry Dennis and his staff at the Anchor for a thoroughly enjoyable evening's supping.

Wednesday 11 March 2009

Dark Beers

I know that winter's nearly over now and that spring is just around the corner. It may therefore seem a strange time of year to be writing about dark beers, especially when this type of beer is normally sold in the winter months, but I am writing this article primarily to bemoan the fact that not many pubs seem to sell the darker ales.

This is a great shame, especially for someone like me who loves the style. Before we go any further I would like to emphasise that I am not talking about Guinness when I refer to dark ales; instead I am talking about old ales, porters, strong ales and barley wines, and even that real pub rarity these days, cask-conditioned stout.

I have this moan every year, disappointed at the lack of dark beers in the area's pubs. There are a few notable exceptions; Harveys own tied pubs usually have their excellent Old Ale on sale over a long period from October through to March, whilst there are a few outlets that sell the superb Larkins Porter (the brewery's own tied pub, the Rock at Chiddingstone Hoath and the equally unspoilt Spotted Dog, at nearby Smart's Hill, spring to mind). The bee lover's paradise that is the Halfway House at Brenchley will normally have at least one dark ale on tap - usually something from Kings. In addition, landlord Richard will also have a mild on tap. Slightly further afield, the Rose & Crown at Halstead, winner of this year's West Kent CAMRA pub of the year award, normally has a mild on offer, and will sometimes feature an old ale as well.

These pubs are unfortunately the exception , rather than the rule. I really do wonder though why pub landlords are so un-adventurous. When my wife and I had our beer shop, we always tried to have a dark beer on sale at weekends during the winter months. They were always popular with the customers, and invariably sold out over the course of the weekend. Those licensees that do sell the darker ales, all say the same thing; these beers inevitably sell like the proverbial hot cakes, so why is it so many landlords prefer to play safe and stick to one or two well-known, trusted brands of bitter?

Tomorrow evening I will be visiting the Anchor in Sevenoaks, which is hosting a showcase of beers from the excellent Westerham Brewery. I have no doubt the company's Puddledock Porter will be available and I am hoping that their superb Audit Ale (an occasional beer brewed to the original Westerham Brewery recipe) will also be available.

In the meantime, whilst typing this article, I am enjoying a bottle of Pivovar Herold, a superb black lager from the Czech Republic. Last night I enjoyed the equally good Joulu Porter, from the A. Le Coq Brewery - one of several beers I brought back with me from my recent trip to Tallinn. I still have a bottle of Saku Porter to try; after that its back to the Fullers Porter for home consumption.

Saturday 7 March 2009

More Beery and Other Thoughts From Tallinn

I spent most of my first full day in the Estonian capital sightseeing, exploring the quaint cobbled streets, looking at the castle, towers, cathedrals and churches of old town Tallinn. It turned out to be the coldest day of my trip, but it was bright and sunny and I was wrapped up warm against the cold. I was glad of the fur-lined boots I had brought with me, not only for their warmth, but for the good grip they gave on the icy cobbled streets.

I viewed all the sights of the area known as Toompea, including the castle with its impressive walls and watch-towers. I saw the parliament building, the cathedral of St Mary the Virgin, plus the imposing, brick-built Russian Orthodox cathedral, complete with its distinctive onion-shaped domes. There are a couple of viewing platforms from where one is rewarded with a superb view over the roofs of lower part of the old town, and for me this was the highlight of the morning.

Later on I found myself in a park at the base of the ramparts. The snow sculptures dotted around the place were equally impressive and served as reminder of just how cold it was. I visited the tourist office to buy a guide book, plus some postcards, then adjourned to the Beer House in order to thaw out, have something to eat and drink and also to write out my postcards. The Beer House operates a "Happy Hour" between midday and 2pm, where the beers are a third cheaper along with the "sausage selection" on the menu. In between writing my cards I enjoyed two more of the unfiltered house beers - Pilsner Gold (4.5%) and Vana Viini Dark Lager (4.9%), along with a substantial midday snack of bratwurst, served with roasted parsnips and sauerkraut in a mustard sauce. The meal was good, as were the beers. The distinct smell of mashing pervaded the bar, and I watched as the brewster (lady brewer for the un- initiated) went about her work finishing off from the day's brewing session.The place wasn't exactly heaving, but there was still a good atmosphere inside - if only they would turn off the wretched piped, Bavarian music!

I spent the afternoon shopping for presents and souvenirs and then spent a somewhat fruitless couple of hours looking for bars recommended in the European Beer Guide. After deciding the bars had either closed or had been converted for other purposes I gave up on this quest and found myself back in the old town. Hell Hunt seemed a good bet for something to eat but when I arrived it was heaving and I couldn't get a seat. I ended up in a very nice and cosy restaurant fronting on to the old town square. I had a good meal of pesto spaghetti with chicken fillets washed down by a couple of glasses of Saku Original - supposedly Estonia's top selling beer.

It was extremely cold by the time I left the restaurant and I was left wising I had put my long-johns on. Back at the hotel I polished off a bottle of A.Le Coq Porter that I had bought earlier. It was pleasant enough, but a bit on the sweet side for my liking. Compared to my favourite Larkins Porter it was rather disappointing, but then you can't have everything!

Tuesday 24th February was National Independence Day in Estonia. This anniversary celebrates the country's first, and rather short-lived independence from foreign occupation which was achieved in 1920. Although it was a public holiday, the majority of the shops were open, as were most of the restaurants and bars.I spent this day much as I had the previous one. Unfortunately the sky had clouded over and a biting wind was keeping the temperature well down. I visited a Bavarian-style bier keller in the basement of an up-market hotel. Baierei Kelder sold Paulaner beers imported from Munich. The Bavarian style menu was also very good.

Earlier that morning I had wandered down to the port area, and after making some enquiries had booked a ferry trip to Helsinki for the following day. The return ticket was cheap at EEK 200 (just under £12), but the catch was I had to catch the 8am sailing and the wait for the return from Helsinki at 21.30. This would mean not getting back to Tallinn until midnight. The chap I had met from Finland, when I first arrived in Estonia, had told me that "booze cruises" to Tallinn were very popular amongst Finns. This is hardly surprising given the prohibitively high price of alcohol in Finland. I witnessed this for myself when after booking my ticket, I saw dozens of people pouring off a newly arrived ferry. There were also a number of Finnish coaches parked up whilst their passengers loaded up on cheap(er) booze. There is a large shopping complex next to the port, and I spent an interesting hour or so wandering around it. It did not take much to work out that because I would be going "against the flow", so to speak, this was the reason for the low price of my ticket.

I intend to write about Helsinki in another post, so I will end this one by saying that I spent the evening of my second full day in the Hell Hunt pub. I once again enjoyed the two beers brewed for the pub and had an excellent salmon fish pie. The presidential dinner, held to mark Independence Day and taking place a short distance away, was being shown on the pub's TV. Most of the clientele were young and were taking little notice of the evening's broadcast which indicated to me either the apathy of a younger generation, or supreme confidence in their country's relatively recent independence.

Less than a generation ago people could not have possibly imagined they would be sitting in such a place, watching their president welcoming his guests to an independence dinner. They would not have been citizens of a proud and fully independent sovereign country, let alone members of the European Union and NATO; they would certainly not have been allowed to fly their own flag proudly, as they were doing on this day. I would not have been able to visit Tallinn without elaborate formalities and visa preparations, and would have found a drab, dreary and grey place with precious little in the shops and precious little to do apart from sightseeing. Instead I had been able to hop on a plane at Stanstead, and in just over three hours arrive in a country confident of its new found place in Europe, with its people warm and welcoming; its bright new shops stacked full of the latest fashions and consumer goods, and an array of foods that would have been unimaginable less than 20 years ago.

As I sat there enjoying my beer, watching the evening's events unfold with the above thoughts passing through my head, I couldn't help a wry smile escaping at the irony of it all. When you're young, you have the world at your feet; you care little for politics, history or other great events that may have shaped your country's destiny. Good luck then to the people of Estonia, both young and old. After decades of occupation and often brutal repression they thoroughly deserve their new found freedom!

Do visit Tallinn if you get the chance. It is not the greatest city in the world for beer drinking, but as a vibrant and lively capital, with the added attraction of an historic and unspoilt old town centre it takes some beating. Another plus is that I saw precious little of the British stag party morons who have perhaps slightly tarnished its reputation in recent years; in fact I overheard some people saying on the return flight home that Tallinn has now become too expensive for this type of visitor. If that is the case then I'll raise my glass to that!

Tuesday 3 March 2009

An Introduction to Tallinn - Part One

I returned last weekend from a wonderful week's break in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, a city I had wanted to visit for a long time. In fact I had wanted to travel to one or more of the Baltic States ever since they gained their independence back in 1991, following fifty years of occupation and oppression by the former Soviet Union. Although most tourists visit Tallinn during the Spring or Summer, the idea of a late winter break in this unspoilt former Hanseatic trading port seemed to fit the bill perfectly, with the prospect of snow on the ground only adding to the appeal. I duly found a reasonably priced hotel, booked my flights and waited with eager anticipation for the last week in February to arrive.

From various sources on the Internet I discovered that whilst Estonians are copious beer drinkers, their beers are not exactly world classics. This notwithstanding I set off for Tallinn determined to enjoy a short break in this the most northerly of the Baltic States. The 7am Sunday morning Easy Jet flight from Stanstead saw me touching down in the Estonian capital three hours later. The pilot advised us before landing, that the outside temperature was a cool minus 4 Celsius, so he hoped we had brought some warm clothing with us! It certainly felt cold whilst waiting for the bus into town.

After locating my hotel and checking in, I set off to explore Tallinn old town. Without too much trouble I found the Beer House, just off the the main square in front of the Old Town Hall. I had read about this German-style brew-pub beforehand, and had looked at their web-site a couple of times. I found the place relatively quiet for a Sunday afternoon, and was soon seated at one of the wooden benches with a half-litre glass of their home-brewed Dunkel in front of me. I was joined by a visitor from Finland, who was killing time before catching the ferry back to Helsinki - a journey I would be making myself later on my trip.

We swapped tales and tried another beer each; this time it was the Marzen for me. Both beers were pleasantly drinkable, but I have to say that having sampled the entire range over the course of my visit, the Dunkel shone head and shoulders above the rest. All the beers are unfiltered, which perhaps gives them a more natural taste, but then they are brewed according to the German Rheinheitsgebot which is another big point in their favour.

With some of the best beer in Tallinn on tap it is a shame that the Beer House is somewhat of a fake designed to appeal to the tourist market. However, it is not a bad fake and is in fact a reasonable attempt at creating the surroundings and atmosphere of a typical Bavarian Bier Keller. My main gripe would have to be the piped "Bavarian/Tyrolean musak" from which there is no escape; it even follows one out onto the street outside, which is how I found the place in the first instance!

My Finnish visitor departed to catch his ferry. I decided it was high time I ate something - the Traditional English Breakfast I'd had at 5.45am in Wetherspoons at Stanstead airport by now seemed a distant memory. As the cut-price "Happy Hour" at the Beer House was over by now, I departed and made my way to a bar called "Kompressor" where I had read they served the traditional Estonian dish of pancakes (both savoury or sweet).

I had little difficulty in locating this establishment and after ordering a ham and cheese pancake at the bar, was soon settled down at a table enjoying the cosy warm atmosphere of the Kompressor whilst waiting for my meal to arrive. I tried a half litre of A. Le Coq's Premium lager, which was pleasant enough but nothing particularly special. A. Le Coq are Estonia's second largest brewery and are based in the country's second largest city, Tartu. They brew a renowned Porter, which I had sampled before in bottled form, along with a wide range of other beers. My pancake arrived and I duly tucked in. It was huge, and I had difficulty finishing it. I could see why the place was popular with students, as it offered excellent value. I was probably the oldest person there, but no-one seemed to bat an eyelid, and I was able to confirm for myself just how attractive Estonian women are!

Having eaten and drank my fill, I returned to my hotel to change and freshen up. Later on I hit the town again and this time found what became my favourite pub in Tallinn whilst I was there. The pub was called "Hell Hunt" and describes itself as "The First Estonian Pub". I was very impressed by its relaxed, comfortable and easy going atmosphere, and by its friendly, attractive waitresses. As well as a range of international beers, Hell Hunt offers two beers of its own; one light (Hele) and one dark (Tume). Both are brewed for the pub by the Puls Brewery in Parnu - Estonia's summer-time party capital, which overlooks the Gulf of Riga. Both beers were good, and reasonably priced at EEK 40 (roughly £2.35 at the time of my visit). The food was also good value and tasty to boot, as I discovered on subsequent visits to Hell Hunt.

I had had a very early start in order to get to the airport, and by now was starting to feel rather tired. I therefore decided to call it a day. I returned to my hotel noticing en route, from a display outside one of the shopping centres, that the temperature had fallen to minus 6 Celsius. It had been a good introduction to Tallinn and I felt I was going to enjoy the rest of my stay there.